It's not hard to reason this one but you migh...
With his twinkling eyes, shocking white beard and jolly, full-bellied laugh, I was tempted to perch myself on Bill Marchetti's lap and ask for my Christmas present. Being the glorious glutton that I am, a stellar meal would have certainly sufficed.
Although this is something I wasn't sure this chef (a fast ascending name on the culinary horizon) would be able to dish out. Well, he dished it out all right; in the form of a hearty Italian feast served with sides of relentlessly tongue-in-cheek humor, a bushel full of hilarious personal experiences and just the right peppering of interesting information. It all went down at the Nariman Point (South Mumbai) branch of his restaurant chain, Spaghetti Kitchen.
Amidst the initial lunch table banter, the first dish to be set before us was nothing short of a perfect one. An array of differently-flavored bruschettas assaulted my hungry eyes and as Marchetti cut each into a perfect hal., I was already aware that my palate was about to be pleased. It was a hard choice between toppings of artichokes, assorted greens, mushrooms and sundered tomatoes--but luckily, I didn't really have to choose!
The base italian bread was fresh and lightly toasted. The drizzle of olive oil balanced out an otherwise dry starter and each flavor was distinct. We were off to a good start, but it takes more than good bruschetta to please this gourmand.
Next in line was the star of the show in my opinion, glazed spare ribs. The meat (pork) was cooked to succulent perfection and it was a true melt-in-the-mouth experience. As Marchetti regaled me with stories of his produce and where they came from--right from his pigs in Mysore and his herb farm in Himachal to his Prada-wearing butcher in Bangalore who provided him with beef fillets. I was intrigued to learn how much knowing where your food actually comes from enhanced a culinary experience.
A tangy, cheese-stuffed chicken on a bed of mashed greens followed in quick succession. But this particular dish didn't quite do the trick. If I know the typical Indian palate well enough, it won't be swayed by healthy greens. Having said that, they were a welcome surprise in this otherwise cheesy affair.
The asparagus and spring vegetable risotto came tumbling after, a beautiful balance of cheesy goodness, speckled with fresh and juicy asparagus and other spring vegetables. Next--no, even i'm not sure how we consumed this much food--came the four-cheese pizza. The all-powering gorgonzola battled it out with lighter mozzarellas and fetas, proving to be the perfect order for any vegetarian, anywhere.
Amidst captivating tales of Japanese sushi chefs, our first seafood dish arrived, almost as though it had been planned. Chilka prawns procured from, you guessed it, Orissa's Chilka lake, served with thirst-quenching basil leaves! Of course, before I could even say casoncelli hazelnut-stuffed cream cheese pasta , Marchetti (who I'm convinced was attempting to fatten me up in a single meal) did not hesitate to serve me yet another generous portion of this typically Italian delicacy. Despite my currently over-stuffed belly, I refused to regret it!
By now I had learned my lesson--you never say no to a chef of Marchetti's calibre. So, when a creme brulee and tiramisu were set in front of me, I picked up my dessert spoon and dug in. I'm sorry to say, I had to discard the creme brulee after a single bite, but it's not for the reason you think. That tiramisu was so heavenly, it was impossible to put it down despite the ridiculously indulgent meal that preceded it. Its secret ingredient was simple enough. As a merry Bill put it, "Booze makes everything better." Wise words from a wise man!
The final verdict? Christmas had indeed come early at Spaghetti Kitchen and Bill Marchetti was most certainly my kind of Santa Claus! He doesn't discriminate between adults and children, considers food to be the finest gift there is, and doesn't expect you to be very good all year to fatten you up either!
It seems what I had once cast aside to be just another chain of restaurants, was actually way above average. So, if drool-worthy dishes and a uniformity in cuisine appeal to you, then make sure you pay the Italian eatery a visit. Until next time, ciao!
Read Bill Marchetti's Interview here.
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